There are some different but similar concepts at play here and they have some overlap, so here's a comparison and contrast:
- (United States) The 9-5 job is typically more metaphorical than literal, referring to employment that meets the needs of the household. Despite the number of companies, each with their own policies and management, the workplace and compensation offered by each are similar enough that they are all conceptually 9-5 jobs.
- Generally, the "nine-to-five type" refers to personality traits and preferences that would cause an individual to favor stereotypical 9-5 jobs.
- Infrequently, the "nine-to-five type" is invoked to compare what is normal in a specific field or position to what is normal of 9-5 jobs in general. It can be used to identify individuals for which management styles may need to be changed.
- Someone may be referred to as a nine-to-fiver (also 9-5er, 9-5 worker) because they work a 9-5 job or because of their social status. The label connotes an individual's class (i.e. the price was outrageous to a 9-5er) and should be used with caution as a result. Referring to a specific person by the label will likely be taken as an insult; for example, introducing Bob as an accountant is perfectly acceptable, but introducing him as a nine-to-fiver could be considered insulting.
Anyone from the USA can read #3 only.
1. What is a 9-5 job?
(description for those outside the United States)
To those outside of the United States, a 9-5 job is permanent (as opposed to temporary), full-time (35+ hours) employment. It has little to do with the "9-5" part. To make sweeping generalizations, a 9-5 job is a boring office job that'll pay just enough for you to get by. Not very tantalizing, sure, but it seems most people prefer it to part-time work and construction/landscaping.
2. Where does the whole "type" thing come in?
The 9-5 job isn't supposed to be the end; over the years you're supposed to eventually get to one of the jobs that pays really well-- navigate through middle-management to become an executive, or start your own company. Capitalism does a great job of making it seem like you can get to millionaire by taking one step at a time.
If you follow the gameplan like you're supposed to, you'll risk your safe, fairly easy job on another position with more responsibility. The problem is that the higher you go up the responsibility chain, the more you need either luck or innate talent. And most of us don't have innate talent when it comes to dealing with people, let alone managing them... especially when everyone is competing with everyone else.
Eventually you settle. Most settle back where they started, at the bottom. As you go up the money tree fewer and fewer people manage to stick around without getting kicked down by the latest up-and-comer. You find yourself expending more and more time and energy just to stay where you are.
Everyone, with the exception of sociopathic compulsive gamblers whose game of choice is middle-management, eventually carves out for themselves a nice little niche where they're comfortable with how much time they're trading for money and becomes some kind of 9-5 type.
3. But what is the 9-5 type?!
The 9-5 type is the type that says dollars be damned, I want to work during work hours only. I start work when I arrive at 8am and I'm done working when I get in the car at 5pm. The 9-5 type wants to be able to take their vacation days and not spend all of them shooting emails back and forth.
The "9-5 types" are those who decided to stick with their 9-5 jobs because they don't want to spend any more time at the office than they have to, and because they prefer the security of their current, not-so-time-consuming job. They like leaving the house every day and getting home every day at the same time. They like knowing exactly what's expected of them every day. They like being able to turn off their phone when they go vacation. They like not having subordinates that require them to make decisions on the spot over and over.
Your quote makes the trade-off quite clear. He says that to do what he does, you have to give up that precious right to only worry about work during work hours. The quintessential "9-5 type" simply cannot give up their right to stop working.
4. So... we're all the 9-5 type...
No, as I said, sociopathic compulsive gamblers aren't. They keep rolling the dice. Whenever things go sideways, the go to a different company and start again. Or make a new one.
And one other exception: people who love their job. They're just as compulsive. Your quote says, "I never really break out of work mode..." He's got it backwards: it's not that he can't break out of work mode, it's that he can't break out of fun mode, and he's managed to channel his fun mode into someone's profit margins.
I'm a computer programmer, and I love it. If I weren't programming at work, I'd be programming at home. So you have to wonder, at any given time, am I working or playing?
5. Man, I wish I was like that.
You'd be surprised. I learned the hard way that doing what you love for a living is dangerous, both physically and for your career. I mentioned up there that in some fields, the 9-5 types are the minority, and programming is one of them.
Turns out most people who go into computer programming enjoyed it at some point in their life. They like it-- or at least some of it. So when you look at a programming department the situation is reversed-- you'll be lucky to have any developers at all who are truly 9-5 types. All of them will work fifty or sixty hours every week. They don't more because they've just been doing it so long. You can still tell they love it.
I am the youngest of the developers in the department, which is why I think it's worst for me. The rest of the crew call it a night at some point, but if I can't figure something out I may still be here when they come in the next morning. I just let myself work as many hours as I wanted for a while until I overdid it and hit burnout. Burnout is terrible... it's like going on vacation for a month to a place that has only one thing to eat: your favorite food. At some point, you start to hate your favorite food. You need a palate cleanser but all you have is your favorite food. In my case, I wanted to write code but the thought of writing code disgusted me for days. It's paradoxical... nonsensical... but it happened, and it sucks.
I'm lucky: I heard it once said that if you can make a living doing what you love, you never work a day
of your life. It's mostly true. Go too far though, and what you love starts to feel like work. That's
burnout. But after I experienced it, I realized the 9-5ers are the gifted ones. They really can go home
and turn off work. I don't know what that would be like.
But I'm also an obsessive-compulsive sociopath. I probably don't know what being human is like.